Autumn on Lake Thoreau

Autumn on Lake Thoreau

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Seven Points to Consider," Charles Keener letter to the Fairfax County Public Library Board of Trustees, September 28, 2014




Dear Fairfax County Public Library Board ,

Please consider the following points as you deliberate on the library budget.

- It is NOT true that you can not use the same proposals made in previous years
.

- Eliminations of staff positions now will be PERMANENT  Based on long experience, eliminated positions are NEVER recovered.   Is it wise to flush those positions now with a new library Director and better economic news on the way ?

- If you MUST offer budget cutting proposals consider proposing the most unpopular cuts possible - closing Sundays for instance.   Make the proposed cuts as undesirable for the Board of Supervisors as possible.  This is what many other County agencies and countless other library systems around the country do in these budget struggles

-If you MUST offer budget cutting proposal then DO NOT present those proposals as if they were benign  (i.e. Library Admin saying the staff positions proposed to be eliminated are not really needed due to technological advances).  Present the cuts as a very BAD thing   Stress that our libraries have already been cut to the bone and our library services have been degraded.   We are already at the BOTTOM for library funding in the DC area.   ANY further cuts are NOT RECOMMENDED and will only FURTHER DEGRADE our libraries.

-Do not simply accept the elimination of front line library staff but carefully consider all alternative proposals like those being offered by FCPLEA.

-Consider that technological advances are NOT a justification to reduce staff but are instead an OPPORTUNITY  to better serve our patrons.   Technology frees staff up to offer other services we did not have time for before   For instance, one of our circulation aides as TY has done a great deal to assist with adult programs  Proctoring was a popular service we used to offer but eliminated due to staff cuts.   We could bring that service back.  Many patrons still ask for this service.  Look at the freeing up of library staff from one set of tasks as a chance for them to engage in other desirable tasks NOT as a justification to further reduce a library workforce which has already been cut by hundreds over the last several years.

-Please adopt a posture of hope and determination to enhance and rebuild Fairfax County Public Libraries - not a posture of resignation to cut after cut after cut and a steady degrading of our libraries.

Make it clear we need MORE funding not less and that any cuts you propose are only because you are required to and are AGAINST YOUR ADVICE AND WISHES.  Our library collections and services have already been  cut beyond all reason.  It is time to REVERSE that trend.

Charles Keener


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Actually, Wiehle Station Silver Line ridership already exceeds first-year expectations while Tysons lags

We have seen a number of articles based on a WMATA press release yesterday about the great ridership progress made in the first two months of Silver Line Phase 1 operations.  Here's how WMATA leads off:
Metro today provided updated Silver Line ridership information showing that, less than two months after opening, the new line is already performing at 60 percent of its projected ridership for the end of the first full year of service. As of last week, an average of 15,000 riders are entering the system at the five new Silver Line stations on weekdays for a combined 30,000 trips to or from the new stations.
In the planning process, Silver Line ridership was projected to reach 25,000 boardings at the five new stations after one full year of service.
Metro estimates that the Silver Line is currently adding approximately 6,000 new riders -- making roughly 12,000 trips -- to the Metrorail system each weekday. The balance, approximately 9,000 riders, are primarily former Orange Line riders who have switched to the Silver Line.
Wiehle-Reston East remains the Silver Line’s commuting powerhouse, having already surpassed first-year ridership projections with 8,400 boardings, or 16,800 weekday entries and exits.  With convenient bus transfers, a secure bike room and a large parking garage, Wiehle-Reston East’s commute makes up around half the line’s ridership. . . .
In short, the new Silver Line stations are generating about 60% of the 25,000 boardings WMATA expects by the end of the first year of operations.  That translates into 50,000 trips each way per day on the Silver Line.   Actually, a September 12, 2013, brief by WMATA on marketing the Silver Line puts that total daily trips at a slightly smaller number, 49,000, as shown in this graphic:

 
The important thing to notice here is that this projection indicates our Wiehle-Reston East station should produce 16,400 of those trips each day by the end of the year.  

The good news, according to the WMATA press release, is that Wiehle is already generating 16,800 daily trips, 400 more than WMATA projected by the end of the first year of operations.  

Yes, Restonians like mass transit and are using it more than forecast.

The question then is:  Why aren't more riders using the Silver Line at Tysons?  By the end of the first year of operations, it should be carrying 32,600 people per day according to the graphic above.  Right now, subtracting out Reston's share of the traffic, it is only carrying about 13,200 riders daily or 40% of its year-end forecast traffic. 

We wonder if Tysons lack of "a secure bike room and a large parking garage(s)" might not be the problem even with the free (with Metro transfer) circulator bus service there--which gets mixed reviews because of infrequent service on circuitous routes.  (Sounds like the same reviews of the Reston RIBS bus service, which isn't free and each route is much longer & service less frequent.  Hint for Fairfax DOT:  More buses + more frequency = more riders.  And "free" is good too!)   And the absence of parking garages at Tysons isn't a design flaw, it's a "design feature" no matter how ill-conceived.  

Whatever the reasons, we hope that Tysons joins Reston and lives up to WMATA's expectations by next July.

A "model" scheme, Thinking Highways, August 26, 2014

This article, which might be better titled "Take the money and run", highlights how state toll road public-private partnerships (P3s) are structured to leave the taxpayer paying the bill when they routinely default.  It focuses on Virginia's P3s under the last administration, but the lessons apply more broadly.

Here is an excerpt:
Virginia’s 1995 Public-Private Transportation Act is held up as the “model” by contractors and financiers, especially as it was implemented at break-neck speed during Governor Bob McDonnell’s administration.  In four years, the number of Virginia P3s skyrocketed to 22 and with the Commonwealth signing over US$6 billion in P3s during 2012 alone, Infrastructure Investor magazine named McDonnell “man of the year” and called the state’s legal consultant, Allen and Overy, the world’s best law firm twice. Does any magazine for investors venerate hard bargainers for taxpayers?
“A great deal of the media praising public private partnerships in transportation projects comes from sources that have a self-interest in promoting them,” says Jack Trammell, now a candidate for Virginia’ 7th Congressional District.  “A major factor motivating me to run for office is what I think should be a national concern about this trend away from transparency and toward greater taxpayer risk in such projects.”
In the past, even Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) never saw P3 contracts, only being allowed up-down votes on the total taxpayer bill, which consistently put 95+ per cent of all costs on state and federal taxpayers. The privates put up tiny bits of equity, though they imply more because they borrow dollars from Uncle Sam that they likely will not pay back and they sell bonds that Uncle Sam guarantees and which will cost taxpayers when the P3 goes bankrupt – as they almost inevitably do – about 15 years down the road.
It is a “win-win-win” for private money and contractors but for unaware taxpayers it could be the biggest scheme ever in Virginia – and potentially US – history.  Is getting a highway or other transportation infrastructure, which may or may not be needed, returned to we taxpayers just when it’s beginning to need maintenance worth the fact that we’ve left virtually all construction costs, all risk, all financing costs and 10-15 years of tolls to the next generation of taxpayers?
Click here to read extensive details on the way these deals are fashioned so companies win and you lose.  

RCA Reston 2020 comments on the "strawman" draft Phase 2 Reston Master Plan, September 25, 2014



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recap of September 13th Reston Community Meeting

This is a re-posting of a post on the Reston Citizens Association (RCA) blog.


Recap of September 13th Reston Community Meeting


by RCA Board Member - Hank Schonzeit


About 10 days ago, 100+ Reston residents met with Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning representatives to review the “strawman” draft text of Reston’s Master Plan Phase II. The strawman was proposed as an initial draft designed to start the public dialogue.  The plan can be accessed at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/reston/staff_documents/20140905_draft_strawman.pdf.


This plan is crafted to set the goals and criteria for development outside of the Reston Transit Station Area. Among others, Reston Citizens Association (RCA) also wrote to the Hunter Mill District Supervisor, Ms. Cathy Hudgins, expressing concerns about opportunities for adequate public review. Thankfully, Cathy Hudgins responded, and additional community meetings have been added to the plan development schedule.




At the September 13 community meeting, after Fairfax representatives presented an overview of the study area, schedule, vision and planning principles and an overview of the working draft, participants were invited into focus groups. Eight representatives from RCA participated in these groups. 



The focus of this meeting was the text on Neighborhoods, the Convenience Centers and the commercial area north of Baron Cameron Avenue and west of Reston Parkway. 



The following comments and suggestions were brought up and discussed.



Some participants felt that most of the relevant issues were covered in the plan. However, the text contained considerable duplication often with slight variations, i.e. in describing new development, some passages mention a traffic study and some do not, in describing road improvements, some passages mentioned bike lanes and walkways and others do not, some passages mention achieving Silver LEED Certification green goals and other describe “Gold.” Which is it? These inconsistencies made the strawman Master Plan difficult to evaluate and would make it even harder for the plan to serve as a guide. The duplication should be eliminated and where duplication or summarization is needed, the text should be consistent.



Missing were any mention of specific guidance on street crossing safety, traffic monitoring, how and where additional parks and recreation centers would be created to accommodate the expanded population and how our existing library will be maintained and enhanced.



There are no metrics mentioned for: traffic, green space verses development, park acreage/resident, library space/resident… The only metric included was for affordable housing. That metric however, does not differentiate between the two components of affordable housing, workforce and subsidized.


Someone noted that there was no text describing accommodations for pedestrians and bicycles when the new proposed bridges and underpasses are built, safe crossing of North Shore Drive when the revitalization of the Lake Anne area is implemented and noted that there is no guidance on the maintenance of existing facilities and paths, accommodation for electric charging stations, soliciting a book store, a mechanism to monitor traffic, and the process of how Reston will encourage developers to adhere to Phase II guidelines. A representative told RCA that the Plan sets the framework for evaluating proposals that are brought forward to the Planning and Zoning Department.



One of the main goals of Phase II was to create a new land use map - one that reflects all parks, recreation and open spaces in Reston, both public and private. New site-specific recommendations were added for Reston’s two golf courses – saying they are explicitly planned to remain as golf courses.



There were no goals set for the Baron Cameron Community Retail Center.  Should there be a goal, for instance, to eventually bring that center in line with the architecture of the Town center complexes as was the intention of the original Master Plan? Comments on the draft text are invited at restonmasterplanspecialstudy@fairfaxcounty.gov.


The next community meeting to present and discuss "Strawman" text for Phase II will be Saturday, October 18, time and place to be announced.  (Note:  The time will be 8:45-11:30AM, but the place is still unknown.)  The focus will be on the draft Village Center text. There are no goals or plans for the four village centers in the draft text. Apparently the owners are satisfied with the current state of these locations. Someone questioned, “Shouldn’t we have a goal for how these centers will look like in 10-20 years?” If you have an opinion, please mark your calendar for October 18.

Notes from the FC Public Library Board of Trustees Selection Committee Meeting, September 22, 2014



Notes from the meeting of the Library Board of Trustees Director Selection Committee

Charles Fegan, Chair of the Library Board of Trustees, welcomed the members of the Committee and also welcomed Sharon Bulova, Chair of the Board of Supervisors.  Mr. Fegan stated that the Committee’s task is to find candidates for the final interview for the Director’s position by the Library Board. He noted the growth of the FCPL system under Sam Clay and said that he felt privileged to have worked with Sam for many years.  He said that the Library is a $30 million dollar a year organization with over 500 employees; the next Director will have to be knowledgeable in many areas such as finance and organizational development in addition to technical matters related to libraries. 

Sharon Bulova added her appreciation for Sam Clay’s years of presiding over FCPL’s evolution from a rural library system to the much larger system that it is today. She related her memory of contacting Mr. Clay years ago in her position as a newly hired aide to Audrey Moore to arrange for “mobile library” service to the Robinson Square housing complex to provide constructive activities for young people who lived there and were getting into trouble.  She said that no one legislates that we must have a library system; she considers FCPL a major quality of life resource and noted the really strong Friends organizations.  She stated that the Committee is doing important work in searching for a new Director who will develop the library system for the future.  She affirmed that the Library Board is an authority and added that the Board of Supervisors needs to be involved and to weigh in on the hiring of a new Director.  She spoke of her interest in renewing a close relationship between the Board of Supervisors and the Library Board.  A date is being sought to meet for “board to board” renewal.  (NOTE:  For a transcript of some of Chairman Bulova's more assertive remarks, please read this transcript.)

Karrie Delaney asked the members of the Search Committee to introduce themselves.  In addition to Sharon Bulova and Charles Fegan, two other attendees who are not Committee members introduced themselves:  Sue Woodruff, head of County HR, and Leslie Amiri, an HR staff person who may assist the Committee.   Ms. Delaney said that at the end of today’s meeting, she wanted Committee members to feel confident about understanding the scope of effort and County regulations that will come into play.

Sue Woodruff presented an information packet which contained the current position description for the Library Director and the position class specifications.  Both documents can be edited.  She also furnished to Committee members a copy of the summary report and findings of the Trustees’ Communication and Evaluation Committee which she stated showed what was on people’s minds.  She provided copies of guidance on selecting a Director from the Library of Virginia’s Manual for Trustees.  She noted that executive level recruitments in County Government are a little more flexible in process.  She gave the Committee members a timeline covering what needs to be accomplished over the next several months including deciding what kind of outreach for public comment that the Committee wishes to do, developing the job ad, deciding on the time period during which the ad will run and the time period during which applications will be accepted, and making contacts through professional organizations to spread the word to people who are not actively seeking new positions but who might be recruited to apply.  Ms. Woodruff initially suggested the months of June, July and August 2015 as the time period during which applications could be accepted.  Mr. Fegan noted that summer is perhaps a less desirable time because many people who are searching for new positions would have secured them before summer.  The level of job seeking activity may decline during summer due to vacations.  Ms. Woodruff then suggested May, June and July 2015 with the possibility of extending the application period through September.

There was some discussion about Freedom of Information requirements as well as any legal restrictions on what the Committee may say and do that the Committee would need to be aware of.  Ms. Woodruff said that she has sent an inquiry to the County Attorney to obtain information and answers for the Committee on the questions of privacy and confidentiality.  She stressed the need for clarity on the confidentiality issue.  Names of candidates for the Director’s position should not be shared with the public.

Chairman Bulova suggested creating focus groups to put together a list of attributes that would be desirable in the next Director.  Ms. Delaney spoke in favor of several months of outreach to the public asking what this position means to people and what traits would be important to them. Ms. Delaney discussed ways to move forward on collecting such information including hosting public outreach sessions in different parts of the County at different times – perhaps one meeting in each regional library.  The meetings should have facilitators.  There was a discussion on ways to get a good turnout with a diverse group of participants.  Mr. Molchany suggested that Pat Harrison, Deputy County Executive for Human Services, Ann Cahill, and Tony Castrilli, Director of the Office of Public Affairs would be very good resource people because they have experience in doing successful outreach in multiple communities.  He also said that County agencies could supply facilitators. A discussion followed on the best ways to advertise these public meetings including using the Friends of the Libraries’ mailing lists, FCPL cardholders, and advertising to parents who bring children to Library programs and to groups who book the Library branches’ meeting rooms. The Committee also discussed the possibility of connecting this outreach effort to the planned outreach effort for the Library’s upcoming community survey.  The Fairfax County Public Schools serve a large population and would have a huge mailing list.  It was proposed that a representative from the School Board be invited to a future Search Committee meeting.

The Committee discussed its next steps which include setting up meetings with County managers who can advise on outreach, planning public outreach meetings and focus groups, collecting public feedback on desirable traits in the next Director and then analyzing this data for the recruitment effort.  It was suggested that the County’s 50 Plus Committee might be an excellent focus group.  Both Jennifer McCullough and Duwain Ketch proposed a second Committee meeting in the near future.  Karrie Delaney said that the Committee should consider meeting monthly to track its activities and progress.